Nonprofit funds a way for high schoolers to skip a year of college

Good News Notes:

Pursuing a college education can be an expensive ordeal, but one big nonprofit is hoping to address the issue of affordability by helping high school students gain college credits at very low costs even before they graduate.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this week launched a series of grants to boost schools’ efforts in designing and implementing dual enrollment and early college credit programs.

The programs enable students to take college-level courses and gain college credit for up to a year towards an associate’s degree while in their final year of high school, which would mean that some students could earn the degree after only a year of college.

A dozen groups around the country will receive money from the foundation under an initiative called “Accelerate ED” of up to $175,000 each.

The effort, which is focused on two-year degrees, hopes to “allow many more people to transition successfully post-high school into a degree pathway of their choice, and ultimately into the workforce and attain early career success,” Sara Allan, director of early learning and pathways at the Gates Foundation, told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

The initiative is noteworthy amid the national conversation over the high cost of college and ballooning levels of student loan debt.

An associate’s degree can be costly: The median student loan debt for an associate’s degree incurred by a student is around $14,160, according to one estimate by Andrew Gillen of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Gates Foundation’s grants are intended to help K-12 schools create a “13th year” to help students avoid some of that cost.

“What we’re all about here is reducing barriers [to attending college] and the transitions that make it hard for kids to keep going,” Allan said. “So the 13th year means … finding the resources to make the transition smooth and blurring the lines between high school and college.”

According to the Gates Foundation, many students who pursue this route end up in high-demand industries like health care, software development, computer science, and cybersecurity….”

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